Cuban Santeria priests warn of pandemics, offer hope for better times


HAVANA, Jan. 2 (Reuters) – Priests of the Cuban Afro-Cuban religion Santeria called on their followers to guard against the infection over the New Year while hoping for better times as it would be watched over by a benevolent deity .

In their annual prophecy, the priests, known as babalawos, announced that 2022 would be under the deity of one of Santeria’s most compassionate deities, Obatala, the creator of human beings.

“Yes, that means a better year,” a babalawo wrote to his subscribers, according to a Reuters witness who was asked not to use his name.

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The ritual religion, which fuses Catholicism with ancient African beliefs brought to Cuba by slaves, is practiced by millions of Cubans, many of whom eagerly await the advice of its annual forecast.

“Maintain the highest possible hygiene in our homes and public places in general to avoid new outbreaks, in addition to existing ones,” babalawo Lazaro Cuesta said, upon reading the letter, adding that people should seek the unity at home and on the street to avoid violence.

Another leader of the organization that designed the letter that guides follower behavior, Victor Betancourt, warned that the disease would increase due to neglect around the world, so the letter was for everyone everywhere.

Cubans have suffered from shortages of food, medicine and other shortages due to an economic crisis caused by the pandemic, US sanctions and the Communist government’s missteps. This led to unprecedented unrest in July and a crackdown on protesters that left hundreds behind bars.

Local vaccines were successful in controlling a wave caused by the Delta variant of COVID-19 over the summer. Reported cases currently stand at around 450 per day, down more than 90% from the peak of the pandemic, according to the government.

Over 85% of the population is vaccinated and is currently receiving a booster in hopes of keeping the Omicron variant at bay.

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Writing by Marc Frank; report by Reuters TV; Editing by Mark Porter

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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